Are Meal Replacement Shakes Good For Diabetics? Pros & Cons

Are Meal Replacement Shakes Good For Diabetics? Pros & Cons

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Last Updated on November, 2022

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases across the United States and worldwide. It’s estimated (according to research and several studies) that 37.3 million Americans suffer from this illness, which means every 1 in 10 Americans has it.

This is precisely why more steps are being taken to help these people with certain things. The biggest concern is their diet. Anything even slightly detrimental can potentially cause sugar spikes among those with diabetes. So, you have to be very, very careful with what you consume if you have diabetes. 

Research every food you plan to have, and decide if it’s safe accordingly. The same goes for meal replacements. These increasingly popular supplements have built up quite a name for themselves, and today we’ll be discussing whether or not meal replacement shakes are good for people with diabetes.

What is a Meal Replacement Shake?

Before deciding if a specific type of food is safe to consume or not, you first have to get familiar with what it is in the first place. That said, meal replacement shakes are as simple as their names make them sound; they’re drinks filled with nutrition that can replace meals throughout your day.

One of the most important things for people with diabetes is proper nutrition. But, preparing particular meals for yourself every day while also taking care of other duties isn’t always easy. As a result, many people are starting to add meal replacement shakes to their diet.

From all the necessary macronutrients to lots of essential micronutrients, you’ll find a good chunk of everything you need in your diet through these supplements. So, they’re great for the average person depending on their needs. But what about those with diabetes?

Are Meal Replacement Shakes Good for Diabetes?

Because of their ingredients, most meal replacement shakes are exceptional for people with diabetes when it comes to nutrition. But, what about other aspects? 

These depend entirely on the specific meal replacement shake. However, most of them are completely safe for diabetics and even good for them. You can use them to balance out your diet without fear of sugar spikes and get the proper nutrition that you otherwise might miss out on.

The ingredients are usually all safe, and there’s often no sugar content. You also won’t find anything else that might trigger sugar spikes or other issues with your health if you have diabetes. There are also variants explicitly made for those with diabetes that you should focus on.

The vital thing to remember is that what we’ve said isn’t the case for EVERY SINGLE meal replacement. Lots of them might not be safe, and it’s up to you to pick the right one. Don’t worry, though; we’re not going to leave you completely exposed.

What Diabetics Should Keep in Mind Before Buying Meal Shakes

If you’re new to these supplements, you’ll need help picking the perfect one. That’s especially the case for diabetics, as there’s no room for any errors. That said, here are just a few tips diabetics should keep in mind to choose the perfect meal replacement for themselves:

1. No Artificial Sweeteners

Now, one thing that lots of people don’t know is that sugar is MUCH better than artificial sweeteners. Anything artificial in your meals will leave you open to illnesses and health issues in general.

What’s more, studies have shown that regular consumption of artificial ingredients might cause diabetes in the first place. So, ensure that there’s nothing artificial in your meal replacement.

Some of the potential effects of artificial sweeteners include digestive problems and stomach issues in general. Even worse, they leave you at an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and kidney stones if you consume them too often.

2. Sugar Quantity

Hold your horses there. Just because we’ve said, sugar is better for you than artificial sweeteners doesn’t mean it’s suddenly the best thing on the planet. So while you don’t have to get rid of it from your diet entirely, you should avoid it to an extent.

For example, make sure that there are only 7-10 grams of sugar in your meal replacement shake. Anything more than this might cause sugar spikes and other issues among people with diabetes, as you’ll likely be drinking these supplements regularly.

3. Low Glycemic Index

A good way for diabetics to figure out how safe some foods are is to measure their glycemic index. This index is used to figure out how likely something is to raise glucose levels in your blood. If you know anything about this illness, high glucose means trouble.

So, try to go out of your way to find a meal replacement shake with a low GI. Anything with a glycemic index below 55 is suitable for those with the disease. Most manufacturers should include the GI in product packaging.

Even if they don’t, you should be able to learn more about a specific shake’s GI by contacting the manufacturer’s support.

4. Other Nutrients

Sugar isn’t the only thing you need to be careful about. Your body needs all sorts of micronutrients and the three main macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs). Without these, you’ll grow weaker. That’s especially the case for anyone with diabetes, as they need lots of care to fight against the disease.

You’ll want at least 17+ grams of protein in the meal replacement. On top of that, it should have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. You’ll want a good amount of healthy carbs from good sources for diabetics (oats, greek yogurt, beans, and more). The fat content is also worth watching out for. 

Too many unhealthy fats can lead to heart issues and make it easier for your body to fight back against diabetes. As for micronutrients, you’ll want any meal replacement shake to offer a big chunk (at least 20-30%) of most vitamins and minerals you need throughout the day.

Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help Diabetics Manage Blood Sugar?

Putting it simply, yes. Choosing the right meal replacement shake and drinking it according to a proper plan will surely help you manage blood sugar. It can prevent spikes and ensure stability throughout your everyday life.

That’s not all, though. There are tons of other benefits you can expect from these supplements if you buy the right one. So let’s cover what they are next.

Benefits of Meal Replacement Shakes for Diabetics

  • They’re perfect for anyone as long as they’ve consumed in moderation, thanks to their nutrients. These meal replacements have bits of nearly everything you need throughout the day. It’s perfect for diabetics, as they couldn’t eat many other foods that might offer some of these nutrients.
  • If you have diabetes, surely you know all about having to research and carefully plan out each meal. It is such a chore and tiring every time you want something new. But, with meal replacements, you already know all the nutritional value. The math is done for you, meaning you don’t have to bother with calculations and can drink up!
  • As already mentioned, they can help you maintain blood sugar levels. Do we need to explain why that’s a good thing for those with diabetes?
  • Weight loss is seemingly impossible for those with diabetes. The illness itself can cause weight gain, and many other factors also make it easier to put on pounds during it. But, meal replacement shakes can help you prevent this and even cut down on weight if you drink them according to a proper plan.
  • Their convenience alone is a huge benefit. You can easily make them, easily calculate their nutrition, quickly drink them, and easily take them with you. All these things have got to count for something.

How Should Diabetics Use Meal Replacements?

There’s nothing that special about actually using the meal replacement shakes. The only important part is making sure you choose the right one. As long as you follow our tips, you won’t have any issues with that.

We recommend that you only stick to drinking one or two of these meal replacements at most per day for general tips. Additionally, try to set up a proper diet plan instead of winging it. That might be an option on nights out with your friends, but that isn’t an option for your health.

Set a proper diet and schedule, then drink meal shakes according to it. This will help you balance out nutrition and avoid any trouble.

Are There Any Side Effects to Them?

There are certainly some potential side effects to meal replacement shakes, but these depend too much on the specific product you’re going for. For example, you might suffer from fatigue, weakness, nausea, and other issues if you drink them too often.

If you’re worried about something like this, consult your dietitian. They’ll be able to help you make a meal plan that you can follow to avoid something like this. As for other side effects, you should be able to avoid them altogether by selecting a meal replacement according to our suggestions.

Conclusion

There you have it. Meal replacements are suitable for diabetics, but that’s only the case if you choose the right one. Lucky for you, we threw in information on how to do that too!

Still, if you aren’t too sure about these supplements after everything we’ve shared, consider giving this a read. It’s a list of the best meal replacements people with diabetes can try, and you’re sure to find some more helpful information there!

If you’ve got any questions about this before you go, comment. We’ll check it out and help you as soon as we see it.

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Jennifer Pantall
Jennifer Pantall is a Nutrition Therapy Practitioner. She loves tennis and has one daughter with a lovely husband that she adores. Jennifer also loves to spend time outdoors playing with her dog or walking in nature. You can find more about me here.

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